A social media campaign created by Siem Reap-based NGO This Life Cambodia to tackle domestic violence is gaining international recognition having just won the Best Social Media Campaign of the Year award at the Not-For-Profit Technology Awards in Australia, as well as being a finalist for the global Grassroots Justice Prize.
The two-minute campaign film – that sees an office worker, a rice field worker, a garment worker and a student all placing helmets on their heads before they return home – beat the campaign of runner-up Fansdonate x Bush Heritage Australia, according to an announcement issued by organisers last month.
This Life Cambodia’s campaign was driven by a creative video which grabbed public attention and provoked conversation by depicting a world in which women and children weren’t wearing helmets to protect themselves from road accidents, but wore them inside their homes to protect themselves from domestic violence.
“It’s a huge honour to win this global recognition,” said Billy Gorter, the founder and executive director of This Life Cambodia.
“We believe creative campaigning is one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to create positive change. For almost a decade, people in Cambodian communities have told us that domestic violence was one of the biggest problems they faced locally, and that the silence around it needed to be broken.”
In addition to the video, many well-known Cambodians volunteered to record videos and messages of support to promote the campaign, including feminist social media star Catherine Harry, pop singers Nikki Nikki and Oun, and the actress and singer Yan Linda.
“We’re proud to have made a move in the right direction. We especially want to thank the well-known Cambodians who spoke out in support of the campaign, and the 9,000 people who shared the campaign materials, it’s down to them that we made this impact.
“Social media has had a lot of negative press in the last few years but it can still be used as a force for good, and we will continue to use it in that way,” Gorter says.
The End Violence Together campaign ran for 16 days in November and December last year and went viral, with the video viewed more than one million times.
Jaime Gill, Communications Manager at This Life Cambodia, tells The Post: “The judges were looking for clearly defined objectives and a well-executed plan, creativity in the use of social media and most of all provable impact in terms of the numbers of people reached and engaged by the campaign.”
The awards ceremony was attended by major figures from the technology and philanthropic worlds, including senior Australian politicians and major technology companies like Microsoft, Jaime says.
“This means that Cambodia and the work of Cambodian NGOs was given great prominence at this important event. Most of all, the award encourages This Life Cambodia to work even harder on finding really creative ways to support Cambodian communities as they seek to forge a brighter future,” she says.
A This Life Cambodia report said that more than 20 per cent of Cambodian women experience domestic violence, but of them only 24 per cent seek help, and 40 percent say they don’t need help because they considered such violence “normal”.
The campaign therefore had to be creative to reach people as social attitudes about domestic violence are widespread and entrenched.
The report said: “The campaign needed to reach a critical mass of people in order to begin changing these attitudes.”
“Getting an award like this means a lot to us at This Life Cambodia, but mostly because what it really recognises is the passion of Cambodians to make their country better. This campaign could never have worked if people up and down the country hadn’t really engaged with the message against domestic violence, by sharing, commenting and talking about it in quite incredible numbers,” Gorter says.
This Life Cambodia is also a finalist in the Grassroots Justice Prize – an award given by the Global Legal Empowerment Network – and is in the running to win a prize of $10,000.
“We were nominated because our campaign has done so much to raise awareness of the domestic violence law in Cambodia, and because of our many staff working to raise awareness of the law within communities. We were named as finalists in May and are waiting for the final announcement of the three winners in July,” Gill says.
The Grassroots Justice Prize is a global awards ceremony held every two years, and 200 organisations from across the globe have to go through a detailed application process and rigorous judging by some of the best legal experts in the world. The final four winning organisations will be honoured at a UN awards ceremony in New York in July, according to Bill.
Since 2007, This Life Cambodia has operated in Cambodian communities, working alongside them to overcome the challenges that they themselves identify, helping them to acquire the skills and resources they need to create change and progress.
“Awards like this also remind me that This Life Cambodia in 2018 has gone far beyond what I could have imagined when I first spoke to members of a local community in 2007 about the challenges they faced, and began to think about how to work with them as they set their sights on a better future,” Gorter says.
“We are able to do so much more as an NGO now, and I hope we have played a positive role as Cambodia has changed in the last decade.”
The organisation also focuses on improving local education, particularly supporting secondary schools and reducing dropout rates and working with young people in prisons to help them stay in contact with their families and return to contribute to their communities.
“We work with children living in residential care and help reunite them with their families. We also work within several communities to reduce domestic violence, through campaigning, education on the law and direct support to women and children. Our domestic violence team works directly with more than 3,500 women and children across 22 communes, though indirectly we reach 165,000 people,” according to Bill.
This Life Cambodia aims to be ever more creative and effective in the way it works to improve the lives of more Cambodians. It aims to work with several more secondary schools and will also expand in the field of domestic violence.
“We are encouraged by this award to be even more creative, even more driven, in listening to Cambodian communities and supporting them to overcome the challenges they identify and lead their country forward,” says Gorter.
More information on This Life Cambodia can be found on their website (www.thislifecambodia.org) or their Facebook page (@thislifecambodia).